Though this year we honor Mary on the Sunday following Christmas, the following blog seemed appropriate for sharing:
A few years ago I received a Christmas catalog that featured a set of snowmen dressed as the Holy Family. The accompanying blurb promised that the trio would restore the true meaning to the season. I dubbed them the “roly-poly Holy Family.”
I suppose that having decorations that at least refer to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph could be considered part of the real reason for Christmas, but snow figures seem to push the boundaries. What’s missing, most of all, is the reality of the Holy Family. These weren’t make-believe characters in a book of fairy tales, but real people who lived through some pretty harrowing times. There were the angelic visits announcing daunting news; the disturbing dreams that roused them from sleep in order to flee a maniacal king who thought nothing of slaughtering innocent babies; and the birth of a child destined to fulfill long-awaited promises of salvation. Theirs was no winter wonderland, but a journey of whole-hearted trust in God for whom “nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37).
The Feast of the Holy Family, usually celebrated on the Sunday following Christmas, marks a time to honor these three flesh-and-blood figures of faith and promise. It is also an occasion to consider the holiness inherent in domestic life. Jesus was born into a family who nurtured, protected, taught, and raised him to adulthood. Although we know little about his life as a youth, it is not hard to picture him doing the same things any well-loved child would do – playing games, learning to read, helping with household chores, moving into larger social circles among his relatives, neighbors, and townspeople. Through it all, Mary and Joseph are there to model what it means to live by faith and to illustrate what makes a family holy.
Source: Kathy Hendricks, http://info.sadlier.com/religion-blog/bid/76179/Feast-of-The-Holy-Family
While we are fortunate not to live in fear of a “maniacal king” in our country, today’s parents undoubtedly face a host of distractions that constantly threaten the development of a holy family. It is for precisely this reason that the catechists in our weekly Religious Education Release Time program are so critical in their roles as additional models of faith for our youth. As my first 6 months as Coordinator of Religious Education at St. James draws to a close, I am extremely grateful for the time and energy our catechists devote to sharing their faith each week. Your continued prayers for those who have answered the call to catechists are most appreciated and your prayerful consideration of joining them in their efforts to develop a parish filled with holy families is encouraged.
Coordinator of Religious Education
During October and November, monthly Catechist Enrichment sessions have been attended by a core group of catechists from the release time program. Ideas for establishing classroom routines and behavior management have been shared, as well as resources for lesson planning. Catechists at November’s session were also challenged to brainstorm words associated with the word lump prior to viewing Rob Bell’s DVD of the same name.
“Imperfect gravy,” “formless mass,” “coal,” and “cancer” were among the words generated. Following the DVD, catechists were given the opportunity for personal reflection by writing an acrostic poem using the letters in the word lump. Below are a few that were posted for sharing during the “gallery walk” that followed:
Talk about turning negative connotations into positive ones!
If you are interested in joining this dynamic group of individuals who share their faith with St. James’ youth, please contact Kelli Johnson, Coordinator of Religious Education, at email@example.com or 655-4871 x 305.
Release time religious education begins this week. Thank you to all who registered online in a timely fashion.
THE GOOD NEWS….we have an increased number of students participating in release time religious education!
THE BAD NEWS… a limited number of catechists at some grade levels mean larger class sizes AND the possibility of needing to offer some alternatives (i.e. homework, religious education at a time other than during the school day for certain grade levels.)
Please note the revised schedule to see if any of the times might fit your schedule.
One 6th grade (Wednesdays);8:50-9:30 a.m. September 28th-April 25th
One 9thgrade (Wednesday) 8:05-8:45a September 28th – April 25th
One 10thgrade (Wednesday) 8:05-8:45a September 28th – April 25th
Thank you to all who have stepped up to fulfill some of our current openings!
There are a variety of options for fulfilling the openings in this ministry (solo teaching, co-teaching, team teaching, tag team teaching). Please help to maintain reasonable class sizes (approx. 12-14 students) by answering the call to this ministry.
Child care is available for all positions.
Please contact Kelli Johnson at 655-4871 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A number of families have requested to have the $35/child registrations fee waived due to financial circumstances. If you are in a position to help with this need, your contributions to the religious education program would be greatly appreciated.
“Where do you experience God’s presence in your life every day?” That is one question that Fr. Kevin Corcoran anticipates expanding upon with this year’s seniors in the release time religious education program. While he admits that inviting 20-some 17-18 year olds into your home on a weekly basis for conversations about the Roman Catholic faith may seem a bit daunting, Fr. Kevin is looking forward to the challenge.
“Giving the seniors the privilege of meeting at the Rectory is a well-established tradition at St. James, and marks a time in their lives when they are making the transition to adulthood, another topic I hope to address during the school year,” Fr. Kevin shared. In addition, Fr. Kevin plans to provide opportunities to discuss issues that are particularly relevant to the daily lives of the senior class, as well as taking ownership of one’s own faith and worship practices.
On the personal side of things, Fr. Kevin is no stranger to a houseful of young people. As #5 in a family of seven children (he has 4 sisters and 2 brothers), he has the air of someone who understands the importance of flexibility, but also recognizes the need for routines. So while life in a parish as busy as St. James may seem anything but routine, Fr. Kevin’s opening question serves as a reminder to all parishioners to be aware of how the Spirit touches each and every one of us every day.
While this column concludes the highlights of the release time catechists, those who dedicate their time to other religious education programs (Sunday Preschool, Liturgy of the Word for Children, Family Faith Formation) at St. James will be featured in the near future. Stay tuned…and remember to register online at http://stjamescaz.com/religious-education-registration/
As volunteer positions go, we can all relate to those that morph into a whole new one, a phenomenon to which Juli Frazee can fully attest. While Juli initially offered to serve as a hall monitor for the high school release time program, she quickly surmised that sharing her time and talent in the classroom setting was a role she was ready to tackle. “I think one of the things I appreciate most about our 11th graders is the fact that they don’t have to be here…they want to,” Juli expressed. Fresh from their experience with receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, the juniors in Juli’s class explored the theme of “Service,” welcoming a variety of guest speakers who shared how their professions and/or volunteer service minister to those in need, whether it be financial, spiritual, or perhaps both. “The guest speakers sparked meaningful conversations among the juniors and provided opportunities to discuss what it means to put faith into practice,” Juli added. Among Juli’s other St. James commitments are Parish Council, of which she is Vice Chair, and the Parish Life Committee. She is also the proud grandmother of 5 grandchildren, all of whom live locally.
Shadowing Juli in her role as catechist this year was John Redmond. A lifelong parishioner of St. James, John wondered what he could offer to the release time program. A graduate of Christian Brothers Academy and Boston College, John felt compelled to share his education and experiences and is interested in exploring the resources available for curriculum at the high school level and has some ideas for adult education opportunities. John will be team teaching with Megan Fallon for the upcoming school year.
Adult spirituality is the focus of Sister Mary Ellen Curtin’s work at the Spiritual Renewal Center in Syracuse and provided some of the focus for her lessons with the junior class. A leader of adult retreats and a presenter of workshops using poetry as a means of prayer and transformation, one of Sr. Mary Ellen’s goals for her students was to help each individual discover those areas about which they are particularly passionate and to develop those gifts with which they are blessed. While getting students to share openly was admittedly challenging, Sr. Mary Ellen’s practice of giving students time for personal reflection provided a model that will serve them well as their responsibilities increase in the coming years.
While this column concludes the highlights of the 2010-11 release time catechists, stay tuned next week for Fr. Kevin Corcoran’s vision for the senior class.
COMING SOON…. Online registration for release time Religious Education. Please watch for a postcard with more details and check out the registration form on the St. James website www.stjamescaz.com
The tenth grade catechists for the 2010-2011 school year included two seasoned teachers. Katie Cannizzaro is a certified special education teacher and Janet Munro’s career in education spanned 28 years, twenty-five of which were spent with the East Syracuse-Minoa school district.
“It’s all about the snack!” Katie joked as she shared her strategy for encouraging students to share freely about their faith during the release time program.
While to the untrained eye it may look like students are more willing to participate when fed, closer observation will reveal that Katie’s straight-forward, honest approach with those in her charge is most likely the reason students feel comfortable engaging in meaningful conversations about faith. Additionally, Katie’s relationships with students outside the religious education setting are fostered through her roles substitute teaching and coaching for the Cazenovia school district. Julie Hagan, Youth Ministry, had this to share about Katie’s dedication: “I think in the 12 years she has served as a catechist, she has a perfect attendance record!”
Upon her retirement in 2006, Janet enlisted with the Peace Corp and spent her two years in Armenia teaching college-level English. Her secondary project involved an orphanage specializing in children with special needs. Procuring systems to remedy the inadequate heating and lack of running water in the facility became the focus of a fundraising effort, spearheaded by two of Janet’s grandchildren back in the States and supported by the parishioners of St. James. Her experiences with the Peace Corp are easily woven into her social justice lesson plans designed to help students understand that “God expects all of us to share responsibility for the well-being of others.” In addition, Janet stresses with her students the importance of decision-making skills based on the Catholic faith.
Among Janet’s other current volunteer commitments are the League of Women Voters (of which she is co-president), Lectoring and Eucharistic Ministering at St. James, and spiritual care at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Skiing, golfing, gardening, and reading round out Janet’s personal interests. (Who said retirement has anything to do with slowing down?!)
SO…have you prayerfully considered how you might be able to offer approximately 1½ hours of your time each week, just as those who have been highlighted over the past 11 weeks have done? REMEMBER…no prior teaching experience is needed! Just an open mind and a willingness to share your faith.
12 teens and 3 adults traveled to Newark, NY last week and it was an amazing week. The service projects were found to be not only helpful to others but meaningful as well. There were personal connections made and friendships formed! Thank you so much for your support as a parish! Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for more information on what was done while we were in Newark!
When Linda Hansen and her family relocated to Cazenovia eight years ago, she brought her experience as a substitute religious education teacher with her former parish, St. John’s in Kenmore, NY, to St. James. Initially taking on one class in the release time program, Linda soon began teaching back-to-back sessions of 5th and 9th grade classes. “I was already here prepared for one class, so when there was a need for a catechist to teach another grade level, I thought, ‘Why not?’” she said. Linda’s boundless energy is also evidenced in her part-time work as a substitute monitor at Burton St., her weekly volunteer work at The Key, and her contributions to the Human Development Committee and Sacramental Preparation at St. James. Three different degrees in business, social services, and elementary education add to Linda’s diversity, as does her ability to personally clean every inch of her recently renovated house with no less than 5 bathrooms!
As with many of the catechists who work full-time, Rich Huftalen finds the 8:00-8:45 a.m. time slot allows him to begin each Wednesday with a slightly different feel. “I do go into work a bit later on religious education days, but I am able to bring with me some of the gratification that comes from sharing my faith,” he shared. While Rich admits that creating lessons that are meaningful and engaging can be challenging, he also appreciates that his weekly preparation time encourages him to be a continual learner.
Trish Dougherty has worked with several different grade levels, from preschool to high school, over the past several years and shared that “it just feels good to know you are helping where you are needed.” Even when a work schedule change had her working a 10-hour shift nursing on the day she had committed to teaching religion to ninth graders, Trish found an occasional tag-team approach with Maggie Dougherty or Molly Dougherty was beneficial to both her and the students. Trish also credits Julie Hagan, Youth Ministry Coordinator, with providing support with lesson planning throughout the year.
Have you prayerfully considered the gifts you can offer to the religious education programs? As you ponder how you might be called to join these catechists in this unique ministry, please consider some of the “behind the scenes” roles (substitutes, childcare, and hall monitors) that are needed to keep the release time program running smoothly as well.
Following a 30-year career in elementary education, the majority of which was spent in the Cazenovia Central School District, Margy Clancy eased into retirement by taking on the role of Coordinator of Religious Education for 5 years. Upon her second retirement, she has continued to share her skills and faith with the release time program. “Encouraging children to experience God in everything that is in their lives and helping them build gratitude to God for what they have is a rewarding experience,” Margy shared. Her weekly lessons emphasize the love that God has for all of us and that when we do not live according to his Word, it is our actions that disappoint him. “This challenges children to realize that the Kingdom of God is US…NOW.”
Another former Director of Religious Education who has continued to share her time and talent with the release time program is Tracy Latak. Upon moving to Cazenovia in the early 1990s, Tracy immediately became involved with the religious education programs at St. James, eventually becoming commissioned as a lay minister through the Formation for Ministry program.
St. Bernadette’s parish will now benefit from Tracy’s wealth of experience, as she has recently relocated to Constantia. She offered these words about her tenure with St. James: “My years as a catechist and as Coordinator of Religious Education taught me to appreciate the diversity of our parish, to accept the unique gifts that everyone has to offer, and to recognize that everyone has burdens to carry, whether they wear them openly or in silence. We all share responsibility for helping others during those challenging times.”
Rounding out this veteran group of catechists at seventh grade is Sally Ryan. Sally was a catechist in the 1980s when her children were in school and returned to the role this past year. When asked how her present experience compares with that in the past, she had this to say: “Today’s curriculum is much more student-focused. It provides opportunities for the students to relate their faith to everyday experiences and encourages them to develop their Christian values.” Sally also shared how lesson preparation for her present experience has been a great opportunity to refresh her own faith. And how do the children of today compare with those in the 80s? “There are still those who think they are going to shock you, but after a long career in the health care field working with teenagers and young adults, nothing surprises me!”
As you ponder how you might be called to join these catechists in this unique ministry, please consider some of the “behind the scenes” roles (substitutes, childcare, and hall monitors) that are needed to keep the release time program running smoothly as well.
For the past few years, co-teaching back-to-back classes (6th and 10th grades) has been a solution for Sherry Kellish and Diane Tedesco as they juggle the demands of parenting, working, and volunteering. Sherry, a lifelong parishioner, has been sharing her faith with the youth of St. James for 19 years, and finds it hard to believe that she and Diane have only known each other since the Tedesco’s settled in Cazenovia in 2003 after careers in the military.
“I really can’t pinpoint when we officially met. It feels like we’ve known each other our whole lives!” Sherry stated. Diane offered that they have found each other to be an incredible source of support both inside and outside the classroom, especially as they both do battle with serious health concerns. Both agreed that their teaching styles complement each other well; Sherry being the more detailed-oriented of the two, Diane tending more toward spontaneity. Diane’s recent BAGOH project is an example of their collaborative efforts to raise students’ awareness of those in need. For more information, click here.
Kara Connellan recently reached the milestone of a decade of service devoted to the release-time program. Her experience includes grades 2, 6, and 7. Kara shared, “Working with the second graders as they prepared for the sacraments of Reconciliation and First Communion was particularly meaningful.” In addition to her volunteer commitments, Kara works in the office of the family business, Johnson Lumber, and coaches soccer for Cazenovia Central School.
Tracie Cunningham is also committed to a family business, Cunningham Excavation, and finds time to teach during the Wednesday morning release time. “It has been a great opportunity for me to meet the peers of my children,” she shared. She has taught 2nd, 5th and 6th grades. Among the activities she enjoys are skiing and softball.
As in previous weeks, when you see these parishioners, please thank them for their commitment to being catechists and ask yourself how you might be called to join them in this unique ministry.